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Allan rohan Crite (1910-2007)

Allan Rohan Crite was one of the first artists to observe and depict average African Americans engaged in their daily activities, primarily in the South End, Cambridge and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. According to Crite,

I’ve only done one piece of work in my whole life..I wanted to paint people of color as normal humans. I tell the story of man through the black figure.

Crite rejected the images of artists like Archibald Motley, Jr. and Palmer Hayden because he felt they were inaccurate in their portrayal of African American life--at least, in that those images were universal symbols. He earned the title of “reporter-artist”, rendering his subjects and scenery with such fine detail they appear almost like color photographs.

A devout Episcopalian, his work soon began to exhibit strong religious themes as well, depicting blacks in interpretations of Biblical stories and African American spirituals. Crite also wrote and illustrated several books, created hand-tooled brass panels that once adorned a monastery, and designed and painted vestments and banners for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Cambridge. His illustrations were published for many years in the 1970s and 80s as covers for Sunday service leaflets.

Memory Sketch of Myself, c. 1927, graphite on paper

Although Crite executed large-scale oil paintings, the vast majority of his artistic output consisted of works on paper, especially watercolors and drawings. He made sketches and designs on a daily basis, and these were in many cases, seen by him as the final product—not a preliminary work.

Exhibitions

1931 Exhibition of the Work of Negro Artists presented by the Harmon Foundation at the Art Center, NY

1936 Paintings and Sculpture by American Negro Artists, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, IL

1940 Exhibition of the Art of the American Negro (1851-1940), Tanner Art Galleries, Chicago, IL

1942 American Negro Art, 19th and 20th Centuries, Downtown Gallery, NY

1944 Third Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Prints by Negro Artists: The Two Generations, Atlanta University, GA

1945 The Negro Artist Comes of Age: A National Survey of Contemporary American Artists, Albany Institute of History and Art, NY

1971 Our Elders: Crite and Dames: An Exhibition of the Work of Allan R. Crite and Chester A. Dames, Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, MA

1975 Allan Rohan Crite (solo), Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, MA

1975 Jubilee: Afro-American Artists on Afro-America, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, MA

1978 Allan Rohan Crite (solo), Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, Philadelphia, PA

2001 ALLAN ROHAN CRITE: Artist-Reporter of the African American Community, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA

2003 ALLAN ROHAN CRITE: Were You There, Washington National Cathedral, Washington D.C.

2005 Syncopated Rhythms: 20th-Century African American Art from the George and Joyce Wein Collection, Boston University Art Gallery, MA

2009 In Search of Missing Masters: The Lewis Tanner Moore Collection of African American Art, Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA

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